Special Book Award of China issued to Irish writer for the first time
Published: Sep 16, 2021 06:53 PM
Professor Jerusha Hull McCormack, an Irish writer and expert on China, has won the Special Book Award of China, making her the first Irish winner of the annual award since it was established in 2005, the Chinese Embassy in Ireland said on Tuesday.

Initially launched by China's State Press and Publication Administration, the award is a top publication prize that recognizes the significant contributions made by foreigners to promoting cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world, the embassy said in a statement on its website.

Alongside McCormack, 14 writers, translators and publishers received the 15th Special Book Award of China at a ceremony held in Beijing on Tuesday, according to the statement.

In an interview with the Xinhua News Agency in Dublin, McCormack said: "I was stunned but grateful to receive this award near the end of my working life."

McCormack, 78, has devoted much of her career to promoting cultural exchanges between China and Ireland. She has been a visiting academic at the Trinity Center for Asian Studies at Trinity College Dublin focusing on China studies since 2015, when she returned home after teaching as a foreign expert at Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) for 11 years, where she helped set up the first Irish Studies Center in China.

Previously, she had been teaching at University College Dublin for three decades.

McCormack said she first developed an interest in China, its literature and culture in 1962, when she borrowed from a library a book of the US poet Ezra Pound's translation of the Book of Odes, or Shijing, the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry.

Over the past decades, McCormack has written a number of books and numerous essays on China. Her major works include The Irish and China, a two-volume book that was edited by her and published separately in 2009 and 2019 to mark the 30th and 40th anniversary respectively, of diplomatic relations between China and Ireland.

Other works include Thinking through China and Comparing Civilizations: China and the West, both of which were co-authored by McCormack and her husband John George Blair, a professor emeritus of US literature and civilization at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.

Asked what has impressed her most during her decade-long stay in China, she said: "The speed with which China has evolved from an underdeveloped country into a post-modern nation."

McCormack is currently working on an essay commissioned by the Cambridge University Press called Daoism in Ireland.

"When this is completed, I will continue my work on a book of essays comparing modern Irish and Chinese writers," she said, adding that the next subject will be Samuel Beckett and China.

Beckett was an Irish writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969.